Advise on bee keeping in Kenya from an expert
I started farming by visiting a certain beekeeping “expert”, who also makes beehives.
In the beginning, I did not see this as a conflict of interest but later l noted that the only thing he needed was to encourage one to buy hives (Sh4,500 each), but when it comes to management and other issues related to good farming practices, he was a skewed adviser.
I have about 50 hives, in a very well forested area but I think I need more advice from an expert on the viability of such a business in Mai Mahiu, near Naivasha.
All beekeepers should know plants and trees used by bees when foraging and the time they flower to better manage their hives for increased harvest.
However, traditional hives with a fixed comb make management very difficult whereas top bar hives make management easier as does the Langstroth frame hives.
Recommended management practices include swarm prevention and control, colony division, supplementary feeding (only when necessary) and pest/disease control.
Swarming occurs when a bee colony divides to reproduce and if it happens when bees are increasing in numbers during nectar flow (when there is an abundance of flowers around), less honey will be harvested.
This is as a result of reduced bee population at a time when bees are required to collect nectar to make honey.
With regular hive inspection (every seven to 10 days), swarming can be avoided by ensuring that the queen has enough room to lay eggs by making extra space (exchanging empty combs with those filled with honey) around the brooding nest.
In addition, swarm queen cells (long thumb-shaped cells protruding from the edge of combs) can be destroyed to prevent emergence of a new queen, essential during swarming.
Colony division is done when the hive is fully filled or when one needs to populate new/empty hives by transferring a comb with a queen cell plus a brood comb and two feeds (honey and pollen) combs into a catcher box or new hive.
Supplementary feeding, though really not necessary in most parts of the country, can be provided in form of sugar syrup.
This is done for purposes of stimulating the queen bee to lay eggs and build up the colony numbers prior to honey flow (six to eight weeks before the date of flowering).
Supplementation is also done during times of drought or an excessively wet and cold period to prevent bee migration and keep bees alive.
Appropriate apiary location and hive installation/suspension will help in controlling hive pests such as wax moths, ants, wasps, honey badgers, termites and beetles. Maai Mahiu is ideal for apiculture and it can be a very profitable venture.